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Have You Really Let Fear Steal Your Greatness?

“Through every generation of the human race there has been a constant war, a war with fear. Those who have the courage to conquer it are made free and those who are conquered by it are made to suffer until they have the courage to defeat it, or death takes them.” Alexander the Great

 Adding another line to this quote above, Alexander the Great, further said, “If you don’t throw a saddle on that Stallion (fear) and ride it, it will kill you. These words mercilessly hit me right between my eyes and knocked me to the ground. This statement left me thinking hard about why this Stallion – this fear, is running uncontrollably in our minds. My engineering mind started obsessing over this question.

Over the years of me seeking for the truth about fear, this scary Stallion, I now find myself teaching people in organizations on what this fear is and how you can throw a saddle on it and ride it. This is how I ended-up combining three areas to form a new discipline called The ‘Veli Ndaba NeuroEngineering Leadership Effect’ #VNNLE. This discipline consists of Neuroscience, Engineering and Motivation and I apply it to both leadership and in changing leadership cultures.

Let me share with you the neuroscience of fear. We often hear that people don’t take action because they have too much fear or fear is holding people back. Most of these fears we have are just contemplative thoughts that we are running too often and we’re associating too much pain to them. So, I can safely say, based on Neuroscientific findings, that most fears are just bad management of our mental faculties.

What is fear?

Well, it seems like an obvious question but based on my journey of obsessing over this question, here’s what I’ve found: Fear is a chain reaction that starts at the outset of a stressful situation and it ends with the release of chemicals that can cause all sorts of things to happen in your body. I am talking about things like a racing heart, fast breathing, sweaty palms, energized muscles that are ready to act if need be. There’s a lot going on in the brain when you experience fear. Fear response is 100% autonomic, it just happens, no one chooses to be scared at a certain point in time, it just happens to us.

There are a number of areas in the brain involved in fear processing and response, but the five main parts of the brain that organize or process fear response are:

  1. This is the receptionist that receives sensory information from your eyes, ears, mouth, skin, etc. He uses both the Short-Road and Long-Road to this this impulse or information. Short-Road sends that raw data directly to the Amygdala while the Long-Road connects to the Sensory Cortex for processing.
  2. This is the brain’s family member that stores and retrieves conscious memories among other responsibilities.
  3. This is the brain’s family member responsible for decoding the emotions you are experiencing and determines whether or not the stimuli is possibly a threat or not. This is the baby of the family that is gun-trigger happy. He shoots from the hip – doesn’t rely on facts, he’s a panicky one.
  4. This is that family member that is responsible for keeping us safe by triggering the Fight-Flight or Freeze response.
  5. Sensory Cortex. This is the one that takes time to think things through. He’s a big brother of the family who normally gets blamed especially by the Amygdala for being too consultative and taking too long assessing situations and consulting with the Hippocampus to establish any related or similar incidents in the past, instead of just acting.

Well, neuroscience has shown that we have much more power and capabilities than most of us think. Once you understand that fear is a contemplative process, you can manage it. Once something becomes known, you can develop competency around it. Once you have developed competency around it, you can then develop confidence around it. Our fears can in reality be categorized into three. I expand more on this on the #VNNLE and how you can master this process, but let me share the three types of pain that lead to fear. The three pains are:

  1. Loss Pain.

This is associated with a feeling of loss. This is saying, “ If I change, I’ll lose… and my life will be miserable.” When I retired my services as an employee to start my own business, I experienced a lot of this pain. I thought about losing a steady income, benefits, ‘security of having a job’, etc. You hear people asking you, “Why are you risking with your career? What about your family and what if things don’t work out? Oh, it’s cold out there!” This is focusing on what you’ll lose, not on what you’ll gain.

To overcome this fear:

Think and focus on what you’ll rather gain. Think of the positive things to gain, obviously not to be blinded to the realities of life.

  1. Process Pain

Changing anything is hard. The process of change itself is hard, let alone what you’ll lose. You start thinking about the hardships of the process. You think about working for long hours, seven days a week. This is the play in your mind, not in reality. These are all but contemplative thoughts, focusing on thoughts that are not helping you.

  1. Outcome Pain

This is the feeling of fear generated by focusing on the negative outcome. “What if after doing all these things, sacrificing so much, the outcome is worse than what I had? What if I get there and then the grass is not greener than I thought? What if…and then the negative phrase comes in.

After all, remember that our brain is wired for safety. Anything that has a potential danger to it, real or imagined, it must be avoided at all costs.

Now that you know something about the science and the mechanics of fear, I am certain that you won’t let fear steal further from you. Now, you can start right away on a new path of improving your leadership journey and mastering the art of building competence that will lead to confidence and use your positive leadership influence to create a brain friendly workplace for your organization. For more, let me take your leadership team through the ‘Veli Ndaba Neuro Engineering Leadership Effect’ #VNNLE and help you create a Peak Performance Culture in your organization.

Veli Ndaba is a NeuroEngineering Leadership Effect Speaker and Trainer, Brain Coach and Author of four books (You Are Born to Win, Your Dream is Calling You and SWITCH ON! And Set Your Soul On Fire!) and Newspaper Columnist. To book him to speak at your next event or to help you and your team unleash your greatness, contact him on, or +27 83 304 9773